The Grass is Always Greener Syndrome

Last night, while trying to have a legitimate adult conversation with my husband after the baby was asleep, I found a cheerio in my shirt. Like, between my stomach and shirt. I have no idea how long it had been there, probably all day.. I looked up at my husband and in equal parts wanted to laugh and cry. I lifted the cheerio up to him and said, "I wish I was even a little bit surprised by this." He laughed and told me it was sexy. 

That cheerio launched us into a long conversation about what our lives have become. I've been feeling really negative about everything lately. There are a million external reasons why, and all of them make sense, but the real reason is just me. In the past 4 months we sold our house in the city, moved to the suburbs, got a Costco membership (I still want to die when remembering this), got pregnant again (yay!), and now we're discussing a mini van (I want to die more..). And while admittedly, it's ridiculous, I'm actually a little depressed about it all. This is never, ever what I pictured my life would look like. Never. And I've been seriously considering going back to work lately because that IS what I envisioned for my life. After sharing this all with Alex, he replied by saying that he felt my persepctive was a little "grass is always greener" because he too has those thoughts while working. He said, "I often wonder if my life is supposed to be spent mostly in an office taking notes on everything I ever say or do, or if I should be at home with my son every day." And I realized this really is a grass is always greener feeling. 

Its really, really easy to get consumed with the negatives of staying home - bodily fluids, whining, crying, tantrums, messes, cleaning, more messes, boredom, financial stresses, loneliness, ego, questions of purpose and worth within the greater world..  I'm not going to say something cliche here - it's just not always easy to see the positives of it all. But, I am making a conscious effort here to set down negativity and see the green grass surrounding me. (Okay, that was cliche..). 

I started by adding "Stay at home mom" to my LinkedIn profile, because I'm here too. I may not be seen by many as someone who's working, but I am. And I'm a part of society too, even though I'm not physically present in the rush hours, Starbucks lines, and staff meetings. Any smart future employer will know that a parent who has stayed home knows how to work their tail off. 

Trying not to raise an asshole

It's begun. Our 11 month old has started throwing tantrums and it seems WAY too soon.  I wasn't at all prepared for this yet!  Didn't he know he was supposed to wait until I could read everything about this and formulate my parenting philosophy on the topic before he could start? 

So, here I am, playing catch up (again).  I've spent the last few weeks reading, discussing, and doing trial and error parenting in this new phase.  I literally have no idea what I'm doing.  None.  And I think my baby knows.  He should know anyway, because I've told him like 8 million times.
"Why are you throwing everything and screaming?!  I don't know what to do with this!!"  I tell him.  
"Ahhh!! You're drinking your water and then spitting it out, all over.  Are you done eating? Is this behavioral?  Are you trying to tell me something?  Should I stop this?  Or should I just sit here and watch like a deer in the headlights?" I say out loud.
"You BIT ME!  Stop biting me!  It actually really hurts!"…..these are some of the one sided conversations going on in our house right now.

So, here's my question:  How do you raise a kid to not be a jerk, but also not over parent?  I really, really value kindness, manners, empathy and respect and I don't want a child who doesn't know the meaning of "no".  We all know a kid or two like this (if you don't, ask a teacher).  I don't want that to be my kid.  But, I also want to raise him to be who he is, authentically- not raise him to just be "good".  (If) and when he's polite or empathetic, I want those to be real attributes he's sharing, because that's him - not because he's just trying to behave because his parents told him to.  This is bringing up a level of parenting for me that goes so much deeper than, "Will we spank him?"  "Will we yell at him?", and brings me to questions like, "Who is he?" "What works best for him?"  and "How do we teach him values instead of rules?".

What I've realized in just a couple of weeks is this:  I don't believe in physical harm as a way of teaching, especially at this age.  I need to know what my child is capable of, developmentally speaking (can he even understand what "no" means?). I want to say "no" as infrequently as possible, so that when I say it, it's effective.  I want to respect and honor his development and personality as much as possible.  And, I don't want him to be an asshole or a narcisist (those might be the same thing).

So, this new "season" "challenge" "phase".. whatever.. is going to be a constant balance of taking all of these things into consideration, while trying to teach him empathy, respect, manners, safety, and that food is delicious and should not be thrown on the floor (or the dog, or at people…). And, while I have several books being shipped as I write this (pretty much everything from Janet Lansbury), I'm also learning how to trust my gut because I know my baby.  I know his sensitivities, I know his persistence (that's the nice word for stubbornness), and I know how he responds to positive and negative reinforcement.  But, lastly (and mostly), I'm trying to react in ways I hope he will react someday if someone throws a tantrum at him.  I know there are people that will disagree with this, but I do think "do unto others" is appropriate in parenting too.  When someone screams at Lars, do I want him to respond by screaming back?  Or by slapping them?  Or, would I like him to respond with calmness, curiosity, and rationality? Just some thoughts I've been having this week… it's much easier to say this than implement it, but I'm trying.  And, trying starts by really thinking it through and coming up with a philosophy.

Oof, this parenting thing.  At least we're sleeping well now?….  Trade in one challenge for the next.  I think that's the way it goes.

It is finally well with my soul

Sweet babies, 

I'm thinking about you a lot today.  I've been thinking about you a lot lately.  When the moms at mom's morning asked if Lars was my first.  When my friend lost her sweet Jonah.  When my other friend heard her HCG levels weren't going up anymore.  When our family labels grandchildren by birth order.  I think of you. I think about you when a song comes on.  I think of you when I watch Lars playing alone in the living room.  I think of you when I see Lars's personality.  And, sometimes I just feel your presence, looking over my shoulder and I think about you all day those days.

Sometimes I cry still.  I cry because I miss you.  I cry because I long to know who you are.  I cry because the intensity of sorrow is so imprinted on my heart when it comes to you both.  I cry because I know that you're in another realm, and you're safe.  I cry because I know God called you home before you were even born.  I cry because I feel you know more than me when it comes to God's goodness and God's plan.  I cry because, as your mother, I was supposed to teach you those things, but instead God gave you eternity and uses you to teach me.  I cry because I feel humbled by your wings.  I cry because you're my gifts, even though it's not in the way I had envisioned. 

I cry because I love you.  And I cry because I wish others knew you the way that I do.  

What a lucky mama I am to have such angels influencing my days. 


Baby Food Making

One of the many perks of being a stay-at-home mom is that I have so much more time to create.  I try really hard to spend my days giving Lars most of my attention, but during his naps and, even if I set him up in a bouncer or with a few toys, I have more time than a working mom to cook, clean, blog, prepare, plan, etc.    One of the downsides to staying home is that we need to be much more conscious with our budget.  (Not that we weren't before…Alex is a financial advisor after all..).  I knew I wanted to make homemade baby food before Lars was even born, just from a health perspective, but as I've spent more and more time at Target since he was born, I'm seeing the significant cost savings we're getting by doing it too.  Example: If you're going to purchase baby food without artificial coloring, flavoring, added sugars, preservatives, etc. your selection is limited pretty quickly and there's a significant difference in cost.  Then add in organic, if you prefer, and you basically have 1 or 2 options on the market. The cost of a jar of just pears last time I was at the grocery store was $1.63 for 4.25 oz.  The cost of a pound of just pears from the produce section was $1.36.  I've found in my own baby food making, that I can't get about 22-24 oz of baby food pears out of the 1 pound of whole pears.  That breaks down to $0.38 per oz if you buy a jar of baby food, vs $0.06 per oz of homemade.  (These are non organic costs.)

Obviously there is variation in the cost of the food I make, the day/season I purchase the food, etc.  And, there is the upfront cost of baby food making materials (info below), but generally speaking, making my own baby food is not only the healthiest option, I also get a much better bank for my buck.  Especially since our baby eats like a bear.  I also like making my own because I can make literally anything.  If we have leftover spinach, kale, parsnips, carrots, strawberries, or apples, I blend them up into baby food and waste less too.  

So, that's my case for making baby food: It's less wasteful, it's really easy on our budget, and it's healthy. I obviously still buy jarred baby food and squeeze pouches for ease when I just don't have time, or when we're traveling or on the go, but generally speaking I really enjoy the homemade stuff.   So, here's the stuff I learned from doing this sofar. 

"The Amazing Make-Ahead Baby Food Book" has been my guide.  I love it.  It gives great guides for how to make a ton of food to freeze in a few hours, how much of each food to buy, a great guide for what the fruit or veggie should look like for optimal nutrients, and it has a huge variety of foods you can make (lentils, beans, meats, veggies, fruits, you name it).  Here's a link to the book on Amazon.

Other things you need:
Some sort of steamer basket
Some sort of food processor
Baby food freezer jars or cube trays

Steamer basket:  
We got an all-clad steamer basket for our wedding.  We didn't register for it, but it turned out to be the best gift ever.  Here's a link to one similar to what we have.  It doesn't have to be very big.

Food Processor:
I had a large Cuisinart food processor our friends gave us, and loved it for baby food making.  Just make sure you have the right blade because they were recalled in 2016 due to the blades chipping.  I got a large Vitamix for Christmas and have been using that now.  It's really great for making large batches of baby food, but not great for small batches.  I also have to add more water to baby food when I use the Vitamix versus the Cuisinart, so that could feel like a downside too, depending on when you start feeding your baby solids.        

Baby Food Jars:
These make GREAT baby shower gifts, so put them on a registry if you plan to make your own food.  I use the Sprout baby food jars and love them.  They're pricey though (hence the great baby shower gift..). :)

Freezer Trays:
You can totally just use ice cube trays and wax paper, but I didn't like how much wax paper I was using, so I bought two of these and love them.

And there you are!  If you have questions, ask away, or share your experience with making your own baby food, products, etc. :)

Tell them about love

Each morning during Lars's diaper change, I tell him what's going on in the world.  I realize he's 7 months old, but it's a habit I want to form.  It's almost as much for me as it is for him.  Staying home can feel rather isolating at times, and it's important to me to stay informed and connected to the world.  Yesterday I just couldn't though.  I just cried when I tried to tell him what's going on.  So, instead, we finished the diaper change, walked to the living room, turned on an old hymn and held each other while swaying and watching out the window.  We swayed there, Lars's head on my shoulder and my tears dripping on his, for 3 songs (which is practically eternity for a 7 month old attention span).  

Alex and I do not affiliate with one political party.  We usually lean a little left, but we see value in some right sided issues as well.  People we love and respect sit on both sides.  We have many conversations around our table, about both perspectives in most circumstances.  We want to know what people from each side are thinking before we land on a belief.  It's something we really want to instill in our children - critical and independent thinking.  But yesterday, I just couldn't.  The most overwhelming feeling in my heart is a tremendous depth of sadness.  I hate to admit this, but the experience of a refugee family became more clear to me than it ever has before.  I started to wonder what it would be like to raise a son in a country where he might try to be recruited for terrorism, or a daughter in a country where she would be killed for having an education.  My imagination grew more vivid as I thought about living in a country where our child could be an orphan because of what Alex and I believe in.  How could we raise a child while living in constant fear?  Surely we wouldn't stay.  Surely we would do what was best for our beloved son.  We would risk our lives for his freedom.  We would leave everything if it meant there was a place where he could be safe.  What parent wouldn't do that?  

I'm devastated at the thought of that family getting to our border, only to be detained or to find a wall. This is not what we believe in our home.  This couldn't be any further away from what we believe.

Our doors are open here.  Our table always has space, and we refuse to live our lives out of fear.  Because, the moment we allow our fear to override our humanness, we stop living.  And when we stop living, we deprive ourselves from feeling everything, including joy and love: the only thing we could ever want for our children…. joy and love.

So, this week, I will tell Lars about love.  I will tell him about the love God has for him, and how it's the same love God has for every person in the world.  I will tell him that when he feels this love, it's a teaching.  It's a guide for how to treat others and a guide for his actions in our world.  



Dear Neighbor

Dear Neighbor,

I see you.  

I see you corralling your daughters and carrying your baby to the car for a 5 minute drive to the bus stop for head start.  I see the pride your daughter carries her backpack with. I hear her when she tells me she's going to be a doctor someday. I see that education is important to you.

I see you coming home in the morning from your night shift at the hospital, only to be sitting on the deck nursing your infant and supervising your daughters playing in your yard hours later.  I see how hard you work for your home and family.

I see you leave for work on Saturday morning, only to return home that evening and help your oldest daughter learn to ride her bike while walking to the park down the street.  I see how much family means to you.

I hear your invitations to come over anytime, or let you know if I need help with our new baby.  I see your genuine care for your neighbors and community.

I see you host your visiting family for months at a time, while they make the visit to the United States.  I see how much your children love their grandparents and great-grandparents when they visit, and I see your tears when they get in the car with their luggage.

I see you family gather when the Shaman comes to visit.  I see the effort you make to host them, in your beautiful clothing and delicious smelling feasts.  I see the sacredness in those gatherings, and I see that spirituality and religion are important to you.

I see how you live day to day, and it makes me think about my family a few generations ago, who also came to this country because they loved their family and valued the same things you do.  I see that we are both immigrants, just at different times.

I see you.   Because you are my community. 

And we both belong here.

First Blog

I had my first blog ideas scribbled out on post-its for days. I had a draft that I had worked on for hours. I had these great topics planned that I thought would start this blog off with intelligent discussion and a pretty face about being justice focused and put together in a world of uncertainty right now.

And then, I was tired.  So tired.  And in my pajamas and yesterday's ponytail.  I sat down with coffee during Lars's nap, and the sun was exploding through my living room; It was the perfect space to write in.  And then my computer Would. Not. Work. It was taking forever and I couldn't write a thing.  So, I did what any mature, 28 year old, mother would do.
I texted my husband 6 texts in a row to make sure he knew how angry and annoyed I was.  I slammed the laptop shut so the laptop would know how mad I was.  And then I threw a burp rag across the sun bursting room, so that the entire living room would know how mad I was. I thought about throwing my coffee mug (yes, I seriously considered it).  Like a 3 year old, I threw a tantrum on a Friday morning while my 7 month old took the most glorious of naps and the house was clean and my coffee was hot and everything was pretty and perfectly set up to be ideal.

And then, the computer.

Not knowing what to do, I sat down, face to the sun out the window, and breathed and felt all of the anger go through it's layers.  And, holy shit, it just kept coming! I had no idea I was so mad about so much.  I was going through layer after layer and realizing that I've gotten pretty good at pretending I'm not annoyed or angry day to day and then pushing it down. But today, I was just angry and there was nowhere else to push it.

The rage passed and tears were all that remained.  Tears of fear for everything I've read on NPR this week about our president and our country. I mean, every single topic reeled through my mind and tears upon tears upon tears came.  Tears for potential change as we discuss a new house.  Tears for my friend who lost her baby this week.  Tears for my dog, who I adore but wanted to sell approximately 7 times this week (that's once every day..), tears for the ear infection my baby has (again) this week, tears for the ways I'm trying to present myself so that others will only judge me as good and put together....tears for everything.  So many freaking tears.

And then I sipped my (no longer hot) coffee out of the mug, hoping I wouldn't throw it against the wall in the process.

And I'm writing this blog in an email to myself, from my iPhone because: that damn computer….

And I'm here.  This is me today.
I'm angry, heartbroken, and anxious. 
And, a total mess.

Welcome to my blog.  It's going to be real.